|Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson|
So far, 2002 has not been kind to the print audio press. First, rumors of Ultimate Audio's demise proved to be true. Next, The Abso!ute Sound relieved founding father of the high-end-audio press, Harry Pearson, of his editorial duties, replacing him with Robert Harley. And most recently, Primedia, Stereophile's owner, decided to terminate Jonathan Scull, who has been writing for the magazine for over ten years and most recently oversaw the procurement of review products.
Aside from the obvious differences in medium between us at SoundStage! and our paper-based equivalents, there are fundamental differences in the approach we take to covering the audio industry and, moreover, serving our readers' interests. The first of these was underscored in Montreal, where we assembled our standard live show coverage. We believe in speed, as it's an advantage that the Internet affords us. Why wait months to produce a show report when it can be done while the show is happening? Some print magazines don't even cover Son & Image -- a big loss to their readers -- while others will cover it only after the fact, and long after our 70+ pictures and captions have been seen by audiophiles all over the world. Doug Schneider and I still wonder why some print magazines, especially those with websites, don't do what we do. Is our budget for such coverage larger than theirs?
A more important difference, however, has to do with the approach we take to reviewing audio equipment. Above all else, we want our reviews to be informative -- that is, packed with the information readers who are interested in the products we write about will want to know if and when they decide to audition the products. This involves not only information on setup and operational issues, but most importantly on the sound the product produces in the reviewer's system. This is the hard part of writing an audio review -- translating sound into words and knowing where your biases as a reviewer end and where good reporting begins. Our reviewers need to think beyond their own likes and dislikes, as they mean little to the people who will read what they write. They need to report on the sonic traits first; the determination of whether a product is good or bad will come through without any extra help. As we urge our readers all the time in e-mail and on our interactive forum, our reviews are a starting point. Let your ears be the final arbiter.
In the end, I suppose our reviews are not for those who want to read about audio as a subject itself. As the editor of SoundStage!, I am the catalyst for this. I know I would rather listen to my audio system reproduce music I love than read about another amp or speaker. But when a product interests me and I'm thinking about putting my money down for it, you bet I want to soak up all of the information I can -- observations on sound and functionality, measurements, pictures, the works. It's only natural, and it's where we come in.
I won't speculate on whether the growth of SoundStage! has had anything to do with the recent hard times at the print magazines. After all, Stereophile and The Abso!ute Sound have been around a lot longer than we have. But I will say that we do things differently. We work tenaciously not only to maintain our twice-a-month publishing schedule, but also enhance the look of our sites as well as the content we provide. We are not where we want to be, but I'm glad that we move a little closer with each update.
So to use SoundStage! to its fullest potential, start with our show reports, in which you'll likely see and read about new audio components first, and look to our reviews for in-depth information on products that interest you. And by all means, once you've assembled your audio system, listen to it as much as you can.
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